What is to be done? (education)


documenta 12 magazines project What is to be done? (education)This dossier is Radical Philosophyʼs contribution to the documenta 12 magazines project. Documenta is an international exhibition of modern and contemporary art that has been held in Kassel, Germany, since 1955 and currently takes place once every five years.

For many years now, it has been at the forefront not only of the exhibition of international contemporary art, but also of institutional reflection upon its intellectual, cultural and political functions. In the last decade, these two aspects – exhibition and discursive self-reflection – have become increasingly intertwined.

In this respect, Documenta has become, for many, a model of a new kind of art institution, which incorporates a growing body of cultural activities into its structures of presentation, not as supplementary or complementary functions, but as integral parts of a single, expanded mode of address.

The documenta 12 magazines project is the latest in the series of activities that have come to surround and contextualize the Documenta exhibition.

Its stated aim is to initiate a dialogue among over seventy print and online periodicals, throughout the world, on three themes, chosen by the artistic director of Documenta 12, Roger M. Buergel, as ʻleitmotifsʼ for the exhibition, on account of their ʻtransregionalʼ relevance: Is modernity our antiquity?, What is bare life?, and What is to be done? (Education). The idea is to draw out ʻthe interests and specific knowledge of the respective local contextsʼ on these topics of purportedly common interest. All contributions will be published on the intranet platform of documenta 12 magazines and in the online magazine of documenta 12, as well as in the participating journals themselves, and can be used (copyright-free) by the other magazines taking part in the project. A selection of contributions will be published in three print editions of the documenta 12 magazine and in other media of documenta 12. The magazine project thus has a dual function. On the one hand, its independent cultural function, and stated aim, is to further transnational cultural collaboration and contribute to longer-term cooperations and intellectual networks, including opening up new channels for independent distribution. In this respect, despite its orienting concern with artʼs relationships to theory and to the public, respectively, the project exceeds the cultural function usually associated with art institutions, since many of the journals in question (like Radical Philosophy) are not ʻart magazinesʼ.

This is what grant-awarding bodies call ʻknowledgetransferʼ. On the other hand, in so doing, it performs an intellectual and political legitimation function for Documenta – not just the exhibition but, primarily, the institution and its ʻbrandʼ.

This is a structural tendency that has long been discernible in the cultural industry (especially the music industry) of which art institutions are increasingly a part: the paradoxical sponsoring of ʻindependenceʼ as informally subcontracted research & development for major institutions. This is not just an expression of what Gayatri Spivak has described as ʻthe definitive tendency of the dominant to appropriate the emergentʼ, but also the manifestation of a more novel need within the dominant to produce the emergent, qua emergent, on a transnational terrain, as the condition of its appropriation. Yet this remains a fundamentally contradictory, and hence potentially productive, albeit necessarily compromised, intellectual and cultural space (see Peter Osborne, ʻThe Power of Assembly: Art,

World, Industryʼ, in Zones of Contact: Catalogue of the 2006 Biennale of Sydney, 2006). With the decline of independent Left political-intellectual cultures, the artworld remains, for all its intellectual foibles, the main place beyond the institutions of higher education where intellectual and political aspects of social and cultural practices can be debated, and where these debates can be transformed.

In the last ten years, Radical Philosophy has increasingly engaged with theoretical and political issues in contemporary art (Stewart Martinʼs ʻA New World Art?

Documenting Documenta 11ʼ, in RP 122, November/December 2003, was a comprehensive critical response to Documenta 11). We have chosen to respond to documenta 12 magazinesʼ invitation with three short pieces by members of the editorial collective on its third topic, What is to be done? (Education). And we have interpreted the brief regarding ʻlocal contextʼ quite narrowly, to offer reflections from the standpoint of a contemporary anglophone appropriation of the German critical tradition, of which Documenta itself represents one, institutionalized variant.